How do you add some happiness to the life of Sam Fox on Better Things? Remove her from her element? Take away the kids and mother for a day or two or 10? Remove any inhibitions? How about all of the above? I’ve noticed that Sam seems to be at her happiest, most of the time, when her home life is removed from the equation.
Not to say that Sam doesn’t have her moments with her kids and mother. Better Things has shown that she gets just as much joy from them as she does everyone else around her. Still, it can’t be said enough how much that can be a drain on Sam, so the show decides to take her away from Los Angeles and bring her down to the South for a good old time in this week’s episode- the aptly titled “New Orleans.” So no rain, for once.
But why is Better Things taking Sam to New Orleans? For a gay old wedding. No, I mean that literally. The wedding is between Andrew, played by Randy Rainbow, and Maneesh, played by Kunal Dudheker. Didn’t hit me until afterward why Maneesh looked so familiar, and that’s because we’ve met him before. Back in the Season Three premiere, “Chicago,” Maneesh” was the man on the plane who was sitting next to Sam and recognized her from “Ching of the Mill.”
If that’s not a good example of continuity, then I don’t know what is. This could’ve been anybody, but the series brought back a character whom Sam was familiar with in a way that doesn’t feel thrown in your face. It’s underplayed very well.
However, Andrew, Maneesh, and Sam run into trouble when they arrive for brunch. Maneesh and Andrew don’t have the proper attire- as in their shirts don’t have collars. Seems trivial, but you know how picky some places can be with their dress codes. Plus, this restaurant has apparently been around since 1893. Not that this gives them any leeway on who they can and can’t turn away, but at least there’s a reason for the host turning them away and not because the two are gay.
By the way, Sam runs into Mather Zickel. What are the odds that he and his new girlfriend would be in New Orleans? It’s a small world after all, but this won’t be the last time we see him.
When the three come back to brunch, they’re greeted by the family, including a wonderful woman by the name of Miss Louise, played by Elizabeth Ashley. Miss Louise is one of those Southern women who doesn’t take shit- proving this when she’s the one to tell off some guy who recognizes Sam. That alone isn’t the problem. Nor is it him wearing an LSU hat indoors. It’s probably the fact that he mentions that he once jerked off to Sam. A bit too much to mention, sir, especially during brunch of all times.
The man is shooed out just as the band comes in to lighten the mood for everyone. Is this a New Orleans thing? A thing for folks in the South in general? A brunch thing? Either way, I should probably visit New Orleans at some point.
It’s light-hearted enough that it fits within this show and the tension is dissolved very quickly so we can move along with Sam’s trip. We move along and Sam is joined by Molly Shannon of all people. Whether she’s playing a character or herself, I don’t know, but hey, it’s Molly Shannon, who wines and dines with Sam in her own New Orleans mansion. This has given her a new sense of life and she’s got plenty of men stopping and hitting on her nowadays- men of all ages, mind you.
She is, in her own words, literally picking dick out of her pussy. Probably not the case for Shannon’s character on Divorce, but she’s happy. That much is great. But Sam would like something similar for her, and truth be told, she deserves that much.
However, her work and life are in California. Does she take Phil and the kids with her? I would hope not, but even then, considering Sam’s work, she’d probably be commuting. Then again, we saw that she’s been replaced by the voice of a dead man, so perhaps she’s not even in high demand. Still, it’s an intriguing proposition that Sam is more than willing to consider.
She deserves a bit more happiness in her life. Not to downplay the experiences that she’s had at home, but as we’ll see throughout the episode, New Orleans is a welcome change of pace. Perhaps it comes from a change of scenery, but Sam here feels more alive than we’ve seen her in most of the season, maybe the series in general.
Oh, and hello again, Mather Zickel.
So it’s time for the party. Andrew has a great, long song that he sings to Maneesh as everyone, even Sam, is moved to tears. It’s a great moment, though I’d be lying if I didn’t think that this and a moment later go on a bit too long. Either way, Sam talks about her first encounter with Maneesh last season and how scared she was, but that trauma developed into a friendship with some random man who just happened to recognize her from her work.
This could’ve been a chance encounter where Sam and Maneesh never stayed in touch, but they bonded over this experience and developed a long-lasting friendship. Take advantage of those bonds, because they don’t come too often. Plus, Sam is the sort of selfless person who would keep in touch.
It wasn’t enough for Frankie to try and make her mother a dating profile. Now Miss Louise asks, and rightly points out, why Sam didn’t bring a date. It’s a fair question, but perhaps Sam enjoys the solitude. Miss Louise came to the wedding alone as well, but in this instance, it’s due to her husband dying of prostate cancer. Tragic.
A bit more time would pass and one would think that, once the wedding is over, the episode is done. But this episode is titled “New Orleans,” not “New Orleans Wedding.” As such, Sam requests one more night at the hotel because she wants to explore. I relate to this so much. You’re in unfamiliar territory and if you’ve got the time, why not spend it getting lost and exploring? We get some great shots of Sam exploring and having a good time in New Orleans.
She even gets a potion to enhance her experience- a potion that works better for newcomers and allows them to see the city through mystic eyes. It’s quite the sight just to see Sam free her inhibitions and enjoy herself. There’s no voice over work to do, no kids to take to class, no mother to look after- it’s just Sam and New Orleans.
Like an episode of Ride with Norman Reedus, Sam meets the locals and takes in the experience of what makes that particular city or state shine. In this instance, she gets some authentic New Orleans crayfish, meets locals, visits a big easy, and gets swept into a parade. Or maybe she wandered in. Either way, it put a smile on my face to see Sam in such a festive mood and it makes me wish she had more moments like this.
When at a performance- the performer in question will be coming to Los Angeles later in August- Sam runs into Mather Zickel once more! This time, though, there’s no girlfriend at his side. She went back to the hotel. He and Sam don’t part ways, though. They light up and go for a walk to soak in the New Orleans air. It’s a calm moment in which to end the episode, but it’s not the final thing that we learn.
Going back to Molly Shannon’s mansion, Sam met a realtor earlier in the episode and, unbeknownst to her, she gets a phone call at the end of the episode. Turns out that the episode Sam was looking for has gone back on the market. As such, if Sam wants it, chances are that she could pursue it. Sam probably won’t learn this until the next episode when she listens to the message, but it’s once again an interesting proposition. Does Sam uproot her Los Angeles life and head South? Who can say?
Either way, this was a fantastic episode and great change of pace for Better Things. Chances are we’ll be headed back to rainy California next time, but for now, very good episode.